September 11, 2020

Bernie Sanders

Sen. Bernie Sanders discusses supporting Biden’s presidential bid despite policy differences and warns that Pres. Trump may refuse to leave office if he loses. Sanders says progressive ideas are gaining traction and discusses the movement’s future.

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What’s next for his political revolution? This week on Firing Line


SANDERS 2016 RALLY RADICAL IDEA: Are you guys ready for a radical idea?

In four years, Senator Bernie Sanders went from insurgent outsider

SANDERS 2020 LAS VEGAS RALLY: The establishment is getting a little bit nervous.

To early frontrunner in the race for the 2020 democratic nomination

He lost, but stayed on message:

SANDERS ABC 8/16/2020: You’ve got a pathological liar in the White House

Quickly backing Joe Biden despite their differences

 SANDERS ON LATE NIGHT 6/17/2020 Joe was more of an establishment politician, and I’m spending my life taking on the establishment.

As activists take to the streets 

nats “black lives matter”

and Americans brace for a turbulent fall

 What does Senator Bernie Sanders say now?


HOOVER: Senator Bernie Sanders, welcome to Firing Line. 

SANDERS: My pleasure. 

HOOVER: I’d like to ask you about new reporting that has come out from Bob Woodward that President Trump downplayed the seriousness of COVID-19 and deliberately misled the American people back at the beginning of the winter, so as not to, quote, “create panic.” Your reaction, sir? 

SANDERS: There’s nothing that anyone can tell me about Donald Trump, frankly, that would shock me. He lies all the time. And I want you to know I don’t say this about conservatives in general. You’ve got a lot of honest conservatives out there. Trump is a pathological liar. Trump will say, in my view, say or do anything to get reelected. In terms of the pandemic, everybody knows that he downplayed the danger to our country, that he has been at war with the scientific community, and that is one of a dozen reasons why he must be defeated this November. 

HOOVER: Look, every American’s life has been altered by the pandemic. And you talk about your desire to, “build an economy and a government that will work for all of us, not just the one percent.” 

SANDERS: That’s what I said. 

HOOVER: How are Americans, particularly working Americans, doing today?

SANDERS: Thank you for asking that question, and the honest answer is they’re doing terribly. I mean, that’s not Bernie Sanders talking, that is what the facts are. Before the pandemic, half of our people were living paycheck to paycheck. And I trust everybody knows what that means. That means you need that paycheck this week in order to pay the rent, to buy the food. Well, Margaret, what happens when those checks start, cease to come because you’re laid off, and you may lose your health insurance? So where we are right now is a situation in which millions of people have lost their jobs. Many of them have lost their healthcare. They can’t go to the doctor today if they are sick, their kids can’t go. They are worried about being evicted from their homes. And let us be honest, there are many, many families in America today who have no food in the refrigerator in order to feed their kids. That’s where we are. It is a disaster. And we need the United States Congress to step up to the plate and act boldly in order to protect those working families. 

HOOVER: Senator, why then are there so many working families who support Donald Trump in his reelection?

SANDERS: Well, that’s a great question. That is a very good question. And I think the reason is several, there’s several reasons for it. I happen to think that what Trump has done is played on people’s fears. And I happen to believe that the success of Trump with working class families has a lot to do with the failure of the Democratic Party to speak to them. And I think that over a, you know, under FDR and Harry Truman, generally speaking, what you had was the Democratic Party was the party of the working class in America. That’s it. I don’t think anyone would disagree with that. But what happened over a number of years — I think a lot having to do with Democrats chasing corporate finance and campaign contributions — the Democratic Party kind of turned its back in many respects on working people. The trade policies, in my view, were a disaster. It costs us millions of jobs. We haven’t raised the minimum wage to the degree that we should. We are the only major country on earth not to guarantee healthcare to all people as a human right, et cetera, et cetera. And I think a lot of workers looked out there and they say, ‘Well, you know, I’m angry. My life is going nowhere in a hurry. My kids are going to do worse than I did. The Democrats haven’t done it. Well, maybe it’s the immigrants who are at fault. Maybe it’s people of color who are at fault. And I’ll turn my anger on those people.’ So I think that’s one of the reasons. Trump has played on the anger and the frustration of the American people. And they are angry and they are frustrated. But instead of looking at Wall Street, instead of looking at the drug companies, instead of looking at the insurance companies, he has turned us on each other. It’s, it’s not a new strategy. It’s what demagogues use all over the world. 

HOOVER: You’re supporting Joe Biden for president. And the number one reason you give as you rally your supporters, is that it is imperative for Democrats to defeat Donald Trump. How confident are you that Joe Biden will defeat President Trump in November?

SANDERS: Well, I say that it’s not just imperative the Democrats defeat Trump. It’s imperative that the American people do. And — 

HOOVER: Are you confident he’ll win?

SANDERS: I think that they’re– well, that takes us into a whole other subject. But I think there is a strong chance that he, he would, he will win. Am I here to tell you, I absolutely, this is a slam dunk, no chance that he will lose? That is not what I’m saying. But what I think is that what the Biden campaign has got to do is not only continue to attack the record and the rhetoric of somebody I consider to be the most dangerous president in the history of this country. You’ve got to do that. But you’ve got to give people an alternative, a reason to vote for you other than saying I’m not Donald Trump. And that means speaking about an economic program which Biden has. It is not as strong as I would like it. It’s not the Bernie Sanders program, despite what Trump will tell you, but it is a strong program that will improve life for many millions of people. 

HOOVER: Senator Sanders, somebody who has supported you for a very long time. Michael Moore, the famous filmmaker who correctly predicted in 2016 that Trump would win the election, election. And he was on this program back in January where he told me Trump could win reelection. And very recently, within the last few weeks, he has posted on Facebook that the support for Donald Trump right now is, quote, “off the charts.” Now, you know Michigan well. You had a surprise victory there in 2016. Should Democrats be nervous,–


HOOVER: –Senator Sanders, about Michigan? 

SANDERS: Democrats should be nervous about Michigan and Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. You know, what the polling shows us today is that Biden is in the lead in those battleground states, doing better than I would have thought in Florida. But I think Michael’s point was that the enthusiasm is with Trump, not with Biden. Now, the truth is, when you cast your ballot, doesn’t matter whether you’re enthusiastic or not, it counts as one vote. But what we have got to do is gin up the enthusiasm by talking about what Biden will do for working families in America and do a better job in exposing to the working class of this country the degree to which Trump has sold them out and, in fact, is a fraud. 

HOOVER: Let me point you to some of the comments you made at the DNC convention last month. Let’s take a look. 

SANDERS AT DNC: Our campaign ended several months ago, but our movement continues and is getting stronger every day. Many of the ideas we fought for that just a few years ago were considered radical are now mainstream. But let us be clear. If Donald Trump is reelected, all the progress we have made will be in jeopardy. 

HOOVER: Which ideas– 

SANDERS: That sounds like me. 

HOOVER: have gone from radical. Yeah. Which ideas have gone from radical to mainstream? 

SANDERS: Let me give you an example. Five, five years ago or so, Democrats were talking about raising the minimum wage to ten dollars and 20 cents, maybe a few talked about 12 dollars an hour. Now, fifteen dollars an hour is, not only is it mainstream, seven states have passed the fifteen dollar an hour minimum wage. I remember, I talked about a trillion dollar infrastructure program. Oh, Bernie, that is crazy. That’s too much money. Well, even Donald Trump talks about a trillion right now. People understand that our infrastructure — that is roads, bridges, water systems, wastewater plants, I would put affordable housing in there — is in deplorable condition and that we need and can create millions of jobs by rebuilding our infrastructure. Healthcare, OK. Five years ago, nobody, virtually nobody, was talking about Medicare for all. We were talking about protecting the Affordable Care Act, improving the Affordable Care Act. I suspect that polling out there will now show a majority of the Americans understand that healthcare cannot simply be a job benefit. It’s got to be a human right.Making public colleges and universities tuition free. Radical idea a few years ago, being implemented today. On and on. 

HOOVER: So let me ask you then, why didn’t the 2020 DNC platform reflect some of these sort of pillars of the progressive movement? I mean, the Green New Deal and Medicare for all were not included in the party platform and that was a real deal breaker for many, many of the delegates. About a quarter of the delegates voted against the DNC platform, including some of your surrogates, including Representative Rasheeda Talib, your former campaign co-chair, Representative Ro Khanna. What does that say about the future of progressives in Joe Biden’s Democratic Party?

SANDERS: Well look, you know, Margaret, it is not a great secret that Joe Biden is far more conservative than I am. Joe Biden does not believe in Medicare for all. I do. I believe in the Green New Deal. Joe does not. But what I would say, if you look at his healthcare program, it is a pretty strong program. He is prepared to take on the greed and the collusion of the pharmaceutical industry and make sure that Americans are not forced to pay by far the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs. That’s pretty good. He wants to lower the age of Medicare eligibility from 65, where it is today, down to 60. Needless to say, I would include everybody, but that’s a step forward. So, look, it is no secret. I ran against Joe Biden. He is more conservative than I am. And the platform that he supports is not the platform that I would have written. On the other hand, as you know, we had a number of task forces from his campaign, my campaign came together and what we hammered out was a series of programs on the major issues facing this country, which I think if implemented, if implemented — and I will do my best to make sure they are implemented — would, in fact, make Biden perhaps the most progressive president since FDR. 

HOOVER: So do you truly trust that Joe Biden will be a champion of the progressive agenda if he is elected and if Democrats take the Senate? 

SANDERS: It’s not– Do I trust that Joe Biden will do what he said he will do? Yes.Biden will raise that minimum wage to fifteen dollars an hour. You know, I know a lot of people who may be watching this program and make 100 thousand, 150, 200 thousand. You know, 15 dollars an hour, what does that mean? Well, let me tell you what it means. It is life and death. It is a shred of dignity for the 40 million people who get a pay raise. That is a big deal. Universal pre-K. It is a big deal. Paid family and medical leave. It’s a big deal for working families. So, again, Biden’s views are not mine. My program was much more progressive, but he has a strong program, and I think he’s got to do a better job in getting it out, to be honest with you. 

HOOVER: There are many supporters of yours, Senator Sanders, who actually feel that the establishment of the Democratic Party is a more troublesome entity than the Republican Party itself. What do you say to them? 

SANDERS: Look, what I would say is, and I say this, by the way as the longest serving independent in the history of the United States Congress. We are in an unprecedented moment in American history. And we’re not just having a debate over healthcare or climate change or women’s rights or education. What this campaign is about is whether or not, and I say this with foreboding in my heart, whether or not we remain a democratic society. Because the person who is president today does not believe in democracy, does not believe in the rule of law, does not, in fact, believe in the Constitution of the United States. So I would hope that while people will have strong disagreements with Biden – I do – for the moment, put that aside. That’s what in a sense coalition politics is about. You come together for a common goal. The goal is to defeat Trump. After that, we are going to fight it out as to the future of the Democratic Party and the future of America. But we’ll do that within the context of a democratic society and the U.S. Constitution. 

HOOVER: But there are still Sanders supporters who are not persuaded. Because they feel that they are abdicating a progressive agenda? 

SANDERS: No, they’re not abdi… We’re not. Look. I hope and I know that most progressives are politically sophisticated. And that is, we take things one step at a time. And the first step that we have to take, and I said that, you know, you put up an excerpt of my speech at the Democratic Convention. I also said I will work with conservatives. There are conservative Republicans who understand that Trump is a threat to American democracy. I will work with them. I work with independents, I will work with anybody who understands what a threat to the society Trump is. But the day after, we come out swinging for our agenda and we fight for that agenda. And I believe we’re going to win that agenda. I am very impressed and delighted with the success that we have had in elections all over this country. Not only winning reelection for the three so-called squad members by landslide victories, but electing new and strong progressives in Missouri with Cory Bush, Jamal Bowman in New York and others. So I’m feeling positive about the future. And we’re going to rally the American people around a progressive agenda.

HOOVER: Is Biden in some ways a better candidate for your voters and for working Americans than Hillary Clinton was?

SANDERS: You know, I don’t want to get into personalities, but I think, you know, Hillary hit a negative nerve, if you like, with some of our supporters. And I think what most people see in Joe Biden is what is absolutely true, and that is he is a very decent guy. You may disagree with him on the war in Iraq. You may disagree with him on healthcare, but he is a compassionate, empathetic and decent human being. And I think anybody who knows him, and I do, will tell you that. 

HOOVER: You are very popular with young people. So what do you tell them if they say they can’t vote for Joe Biden?

SANDERS: Well, I tell them that they should vote for Joe Biden, and many of them are. The groups, the Sunrise Movement, for example, understand that it’s imperative that we beat Donald Trump. 

HOOVER:  Let me show you this clip from a recent speech that Joe Biden just gave. Take a look.

BIDEN: I want to make it absolutely clear. I want to be very clear about all this, rioting is not protesting. Looting is not protesting. Setting fires is not protesting. None of this is protesting. It’s lawlessness plain and simple. 

HOOVER: This election has taken a turn to focusing on law and order. Is that the message that Joe Biden needs to deliver in order to win?

SANDERS: Well, I find it interesting. Obviously this is Trump’s mantra. And this is a president who is running the most corrupt administration probably in the history of the country, where I believe seven of his, I could be wrong on this, six or seven of his key campaign advisers have already been indicted for one thing or another. But, you know, what the vice president just said is true. We have got to be extremely, extremely strong and focused on ending systemic racism in this country. And for to make sure that we tackle a racist and broken criminal justice system, we need real police reform. But burning down buildings, to my mind, has nothing to do with the fight for racial justice.

HOOVER: So you’ve sounded the alarm, Senator, about a scenario in which Vice President Biden wins the White House, but President Trump refuses to leave the White House. You said, quote, “What we have got to do in the next two months is to alert the American people about what that nightmarish scenario might look like in order to prepare them for that possibility and talk about what we do if that happens.” Senator, take this opportunity. What does that nightmarish scenario look like?

SANDERS: Here’s the way I see it. You will recall that after he won the Electoral College in 2016, you remember what Trump said as to why he didn’t win the popular vote? He lost the popular vote to Clinton by three million votes. He said there were millions of people who voted illegally. There is nobody in America who agrees with him, no Republican secretary of state, nobody. Total absolute lie. He was on Chris Wallace’s show on Fox television. And Chris asked him, in so many words, ‘Well, you know, you may lose. If you lose the election are you going to leave?’ He wasn’t clear about saying, of course I’m going to leave if I lose. All right? He wasn’t clear about that. Just today, there were 14 different polls, Trump was behind in every single one of them. Some of them were close. He was behind. And yet he has been saying recently, the only way we can lose this election is if there is fraud. Now, what does that tell you about what his intentions may be? So you want the nightmare scenario? Here’s the nightmare scenario: Democrats, according to studies, will be voting by mail-in ballots in much greater numbers than Republicans. So what could happen is that at nine or 10 o’clock on election night, Trump will be ahead in a number of battleground states. And Trump will then get on television and say, ‘Look at the results. Thank you, America, I won. And by the way, we now know people have told me I just heard this on Fox or somebody just wrote me and said massive voter fraud all over America. We’re going to kill those mail-in ballots. I won. Thank you very much.’ And then two days later, three days later, the mail-in ballots come in in Pennsylvania and other states and it turns out Trump lost those battleground states, lost the Electoral College. That’s the nightmare scenario. 

HOOVER:  If President Trump refuses to leave, what happens then?

SANDERS: Well, then we are probably in the worst constitutional crisis in the history of this country. And I would hope on this one, Margaret, and I say this very sincerely. And I know everybody who watches this doesn’t agree with me on every issue. Maybe not even on most issues. But I would hope that there would be a coming together of progressives, moderates, of conservatives. And there are some conservatives out there who say, ‘You know what? You know, I may agree with Trump on this or that policy, but I happen to believe in the Constitution and the rule of law.’ And we have got to bring all elements of American society together, including the business community, and say, you know what, let’s have, we will have a fierce debate about the future of America, but it will be done within the framework of a democratic rule of law society. And I think when we bring those people together, we can force Trump out no matter what his wishes may be. 

HOOVER: You have said that everything, you will do everything you can to elect Vice President Biden and the next day. 

SANDERS: Well, maybe two days, Margaret, we’ll take a break. 

HOOVER: But what does that look like or what do you begin to do? 

SANDERS: Good. Good question. What it looks like is this. I think it is fair to say that the working class of this country has not been in the kind of desperate shape they are today, probably since the Great Depression. What I am going to fight for is a 100 day agenda. Now, Newt Gingrich would be surprised if I mentioned this, but what he did is he put together a broad agenda representing his right wing views, and he pushed that through the Congress. I was there, voting morning, noon and night. That’s what he did. That is exactly what the Democrats are going to have to do right now. In 100 days we’re going to move to guarantee healthcare to all people, raise the minimum wage to a living wage, effectively tackle climate change and racial justice. You name the issue. But it’s not something we can be talking about for the next five years, we’ve got to move aggressively because people are hurting right now. And by the way, we are going to have to take on this issue of massive income and wealth inequality. It is not acceptable to me and I think the vast majority of Americans that three people in America own more wealth than the bottom half of our country and that 45 percent of all new incomes goes to the top one percent. That has got to end. That has got to end. We cannot have children going hungry, people sleeping out on the streets and people making unbelievable amounts of money. 

HOOVER: You know, the original incarnation of this program was hosted by William F. Buckley Jr., and in 1968, he hosted Frank Halstead, who was the Socialist Workers Party candidate for president. I’d like to play you just a real clip of that interview and get your reaction. 

BUCKLEY: Why didn’t you enter the Democratic primary like Eugene McCarthy? Declare yourself a Democrat and say, I’m going to change Democratic Party into a Socialist Workers Party, enter the primary and win. Has that ever occured to you? Has that ever occurred to you? I can see you’re thinking about it. 

HALSTEAD: We are given that we are given that we are given that advice ad infinitum by every liberal we come across.


HALSTEAD: And we explain to them we explain to them that the Democratic Party is not a socialist party and it’s controlled by the capitalists and is not going to be controlled any other way. And McCarthy is a capitalist or supports that policy. And if he didn’t, he wouldn’t get anywhere in the Democratic Party. 

HOOVER: A moment in time, but is the Democratic Party essentially a capitalist party with no room for democratic socialists? 

SANDERS: You are assuming that there’s a rigidity there that cannot be changed. If your question is: has for many, many years, the Democratic Party received an enormous amount of funding from some of the largest and most powerful corporations in this country? Yes. Have they stood up for working people effectively? No, they have not. But things change. And when we are seeing all over this country the election of strong progressives, and when we are seeing the Democratic Party become ideologically, in my view, a more progressive party. I think things are changing and that’s what we have to do. 

HOOVER: And yet it’s President Trump who then says that Joe Biden will just be a puppet of the radical left.

SANDERS: Oh that that were the case! Unfortunately it is not. Look, we have strong representation in the Congress. I would hope that Joe will support, you know, the progressive community is an important part of the Democratic community, Democratic Party. And I would hope that we will have strong progressives running major agencies in this country. But we’re going to have to rally the American people. We’re going to have to have this national debate. I am absolutely, absolutely have always been of the belief that the current healthcare system is dysfunctional, cruel and immoral. I’m going to fight for Medicare for all. Will I win? You know what? I think I will. Not tomorrow, maybe. Maybe it’ll take us a few years. We’re going to win that fight. And we’re going to win the fight to make public colleges and universities tuition free. And we’re going to win the fight for equal pay for equal work and criminal justice reform and immigration reform. I think we’re going to win those fights, but we’re going to win it in the democratic way by rallying the American people and putting pressure on elected officials.

HOOVER: Senator Sanders, thank you for your time and thank you for joining me on Firing Line.

SANDERS: Thank you for having me.